Memorization Techniques: Chunks
Hi everyone, my name is Danielle from speakingenglish.co.il. In this video, I am going to teach you a method that you can use to learn English both quickly, and effectively. Are you someone who has notebooks full of English vocabulary, yet you don’t know how to use most of it? Maybe you’ve been learning English in school for years, but you just aren’t having any success? In this video, not only am I going to tell you why this is happening, but I am also going to be teaching you how to fix it using the ‘chunks’ approach to learning English.
The ‘chunks’ method is a way of learning English vocabulary through chunks of words in phrases and context instead of just lists of words. This allows our brains to make connections and associations through common word patterns, but we will talk about this a little more later. Let’s start by addressing the current, most common, method of English teaching, and why it is causing many people to fail.
If you have ever taken an English class in school before, then you probably have several handouts with long lists of vocabulary sitting in your notebook. Perhaps you were taught to write down a certain word, grab your English dictionary, find its definition, and copy that down too. This is a common way to teach vocabulary in schools all over the world. The problem with this method, is that our brains are not developed in a way that allows us to easily memorize isolated words. That means, most of the vocabulary that we learn, will quickly be forgotten.
If you have been learning English with this method and you aren’t seeing results, good news. It is not you, it is the way you were taught, and luckily, there is a solution. It has been found that learning a new language through memorizing individual words and grammar rules will have very little impact on your English-speaking skills. That is why it is so hard to reach fluency using traditional methods. When we hear the phrase “How are you?” we do not think about what tense this phrase is in, we just think of it as a phrase, or a chunk. That is the natural way to do it, because that is how our brains work best. We don’t mentally separate vocabulary based off grammar rules, it is too complex and confusing, and it makes it hard to reach fluency. That is why the chunks method is so effective. It allows you to disregard grammar rules. So, put down that grammar book, and pick up a book of common English phrases.
Learning English through phrases is growing in popularity, and that is because it really works. It has been found that our brains work best when learning in ‘chunks’ of four. If you listen to native English speakers communicate with each other, you will start to notice the same phrases used again and again. Some of them are shorter, and contain four, or less, words, while some of them are longer and may contain several different words. In these situations, it is best to split up the phrases into four-word sections and learn them individually before trying to put them together.
The best way to become fluent in English, is by teaching yourself the most common phrases and to practice using them whenever you can. If you have the opportunity to listen to native English speakers talk, copy down any phrases that you hear frequently. Some examples of common English phrases include “How are you?”, “Thank you so much”, and “Where are you going?” Notice that these phrases are all four words or less, so that means our brains can learn them quite easily. With a longer phrase like, “I’ll be with you in a moment.” It is easier to learn this in two separate chunks, “I’ll be with you” and “In a moment” rather than all at once. Then, once you understand each separate chunk, you can combine the two to form one big phrase.
Let’s practice this method by identifying the chunks in the following dialogue between a waitress and a customer in a restaurant.
“Hi, what can I get you today?”
“Yes, can I have the cheeseburger and French fries, please.”
“Great, that will be ready soon.”
“Thank you so much.”
The best way to understand this dialogue is by learning each chunk separately and then putting them all together. The first chunk is “what can I get you.” The second one is “can I have the cheeseburger.” The third one is “that will be ready soon.” And the fourth one is “thank you so much.” Once you understand the meaning of each of these chunks separately, the dialogue as a whole will make a lot more sense. These common phrases will come in handy if you ever visit an English speaking country.
Is there a specific English word that you are trying to learn? Here is a little trick that you can try if you are struggling with vocabulary. Instead of looking up the definition of the individual word and trying to memorize that, try putting the word into a common sentence and memorizing the whole phrase instead of just the individual word. For instance, if you want to learn the word “order” try using it in the sentence, “I would like to order a Kosher meal.” Memorizing the word in a sentence rather than just the definition of the individual word is more practical and natural. It is easier for our brains and also, allows us to learn phrases that we may actually need to use someday.
Doesn’t it seem like learning English is a lot more do-able with these new methods? Learning through phrases and context clues are techniques that we truly believe in and try to incorporate in all our lessons. This is because it has been proven that they really work to help non-native English speakers become fluent. If you have been struggling with learning English, try reworking your learning methods by incorporating the ‘chunks’ approach. I bet you will notice a huge difference.
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